Masterminds 2013: Artist of the Day, Kellen Breen

Categories: Art, Artopia

Who are today's most promising emerging artists? Each year, SF Weekly finds 10 of them for our Masterminds issue. You'll be able to see these artists and their work up close at Artopia on Thursday, Feb. 21, at SOMArts Cultural Center.

That night we'll also announce the three artists who will receive grants. Come out and meet them. But first, get to know their work.

Fake Breasts and Social Criticism:
Kellen Breen

Kellen Breen
The Boob Painting

In Kellen Breen's The Boob Painting, a skinny woman -- enhanced, it seems, with oversized implants -- walks briskly in high heels with two other identical women as she charges up her portable music player with voltage from her right nipple. As they stroll along a hillside path, an older, angry farmer watches, riding a Segway across the dense backdrop of some downtown. The scene addresses three major themes: the penetration of technology into people's lives; the superficial emphasis that society places on wealth; and the continuing degradation of the environment. The Boob Painting isn't a downer, though. Its bright colors, humorous depictions, and narrative intrigue are like something from a Lewis Carroll story, even if Breen's underlying message is serious.

"My paintings," he says, "are ultimately social critiques on American culture."

Kellen Breen

In The Boob Painting and other work, you can see the influence of Thomas Hart Benton, the 20th-century muralist whose epic scenes of U.S. life set a high standard for expansive painting. Breen studied Benton in his last full semester at California State University, Chico, in 2008. Five years later, at age 27, Breen is interpreting his own era from his Mission District studio. His latest painting features Jesus dunking a basketball at Dolores Park's court. Jesus, who is black, is assisted by black angels who lift him upward. "I want viewers to stay engaged," Breen says of his paintings, "so that they might take something away from it, whether it's something profound, humorous, or offensive."

Kellen Breen

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